Rainiers Continue Hot Play

May 20, 2016

Tacoma won the series opener against Iowa on Thursday night, 2-1, in a well-pitched game by both clubs.

The victory was the third in a row for the Rainiers, and it improved Tacoma’s record to 24-16 on the season.

The team is eight games over .500 for the first time this season, and the team has opened up a 5.5-game lead in the Pacific-North division standings.

Key to the Rainiers success has been the team’s play at home: Tacoma has gone 15-5 over the first 20 games at Cheney Stadium.

This is a nice change from recent years, in which the club has struggled at home in the cold months and then warmed up with the weather in June.

It’s been a great first 40 games for the Rainiers. Some stats for you:

  • Tacoma’s offense ranks third in the PCL in batting average (.280), second in runs scored (218 – El Paso leads with 232), and fourth in home runs (36 – Omaha is tops with 43).
  • The pitching staff ranks fifth in the league with a 4.18 team ERA. Control has been the key: Rainiers pitchers have issued the fewest walks in the PCL, just 99 for an average of 2.5 per game.
  • The Rainiers run differential of +30 is best in the league.
  • Tacoma batters are putting the ball in play. The Rainiers have the second-fewest strikeouts in the league, with 250 K’s or just 6.25 per game. Only El Paso has struck out less.

Here’s hoping it all continues for the next 104 games (or more!).

RAINIERS ROUND-UP

Yesterday: Donn Roach had the best start of his year, lasting 6.2 innings and allowing one run on four hits. He struck out a season-high seven and did not issue a walk, and he retired the final 11 batters he faced. Tacoma beat Iowa, 2-1, with Luis Sardinas‘s RBI single in the sixth inning serving as the game-winner. Mike Baxter hit another homer, giving him four this week.

Today: Iowa (18-20) at Tacoma (24-16), 7:05.

Opponent Affiliation: Chicago Cubs.

Season Series: Tacoma leads, 1-0.

Starting Pitchers: RHP Jake Buchanan (3-1, 3.86) at RHP Joe Wieland (2-3, 9.10).

Hot Rainiers: Mike Baxter has ten hits and five walks in his last seven games, and he has homered in three straight games with four total dingers… Rob Brantly has gone 10-for-24 over a six-game hitting streak, with three homers… Dario Pizzano has hit safely in ten straight games, going 13-for-33.

Look Out For: Alberto Almora is running hot. He brings a 14-game hitting streak into tonight’s game, with 23 hits during the spree. He also never walks: he’s hasn’t drawn a free pass since April 23, 95 at-bats ago… Dan Vogelbach won the PCL Player of the Week award last week, he went 1-for-3 with a walk last night.

Broadcast: The pregame show starts at 6:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM. The broadcast also streams online via the TuneIn app – just click here.

PCL Scoreboard: Follow all Pacific Coast League games in real-time with links to Gameday screens right here.

Links:

PCL Game Reports:

Can the Rainiers make it four in a row?


I-Cubs Arrive; Unexpected Shake-Up

May 19, 2016

We’re back from our monthly off day and are ready to continue the homestand tonight, with the Iowa Cubs in town for a four-game series which runs through Sunday.

The I-Cubs have not duplicated the success of their major league affiliate, which has the best record in MLB. Iowa rolls into town on a three-game losing streak, and a record of 18-19 on the season.

But, Iowa has a lot of prospects. With the success of the major league Cubs, some of these Iowa players could become trade chips in July, or major league reinforcements when needed.

If you are coming to the ballpark this weekend – and by all means you should, duh – keep an eye on catcher Willson Contreras, who some analysts think is the best catching prospect in minor league baseball. Also watch sleek outfielder Albert Almora and first baseman Dan Vogelbach, who is a bulky hit-machine.

And if you like your ex-Mariners, Munenori Kawasaki is with Iowa!

The Rainiers had a roster move after Tuesday’s win, and it’s a real head-scratcher.

The Mariners activated Joaquin Benoit from the disabled list, and sent down reliever Mayckol Guaipe. That part made sense.

But the Rainiers needed to make room for Guaipe on the roster, and for some reason the Mariners released Tacoma third baseman Ed Lucas. This leaves the Rainiers with 11 position players and 14 pitchers – including a too-large nine-man bullpen.

I’d like to explain to you why they did this, but I have no idea. Jerry Dipoto and Andy McKay must have some reason for the move, but it’s a mystery to me.

It’s not like Lucas was going unused: he was the starting third baseman, and leads the PCL in games played.

Manager Pat Listach is now forced to cycle through Chris Taylor, Tyler Smith, and Luis Sardinas at some combination of second, third, and shortstop without a back-up infielder. Hopefully there aren’t any injuries.

Tacoma will not be getting Jabari Blash back from the Padres.

San Diego selected the slugger in the Rule 5 Draft, which meant they had to keep him in  the majors all year, or else expose him to waivers, and then offer him back to the Mariners.

Blash was taken off their roster a week ago, he cleared waivers, and was offered back to Seattle. The Mariners and Padres worked out a trade, with the Padres getting to keep Blash and the Mariners receiving a player to be named later or cash considerations.

The process means that the Rule 5 rules no longer apply, and the Padres are free to send Blash to the minors.

I’m sure he’ll look sharp in his El Paso Chihuahuas uniform.

RAINIERS ROUND-UP

Yesterday: No game yesterday, but on Tuesday the Rainiers beat Omaha 7-5 and won that series, three games to one. In his final at-bat for the Rainiers, Ed Lucas singled home the tying run in the bottom of the eighth inning before Rob Brantly‘s two-run single gave Tacoma the lead. Brantly had a huge game, going 3-for-4 with a homer and four RBI.

Roster Move: Tacoma adds reliever Mayckol Guaipe from Seattle, and infielder Ed Lucas was released.

Today: Iowa (18-19) at Tacoma (23-16), 7:05.

Opponent Affiliation: Chicago Cubs.

Season Series: 0-0.

Starting Pitchers: RHP Ryan Williams (3-1, 3.49) at RHP Donn Roach (2-2, 7.39).

Hot Rainiers: Mike Baxter has nine hits and four walks in his last six games, and he has homered in back-to-back games with three total dingers… Rob Brantly has gone 10-for-24 over a six-game hitting streak, with three homers… Dario Pizzano has hit safely in nine straight games, going 12-for-30.

Look Out For: Alberto Almora is running hot. He brings a 14-game hitting streak into tonight’s game, with 23 hits during the spree. He also never walks: he’s hasn’t drawn a free pass since April 23, 95 at-bats ago… Dan Vogelbach won the PCL Player of the Week award last week, but he went just 3-for-15 earlier this week in the series at Reno… Juan Perez has a five-game hitting streak.

Broadcast: The pregame show starts at 6:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM. The broadcast also streams online via the TuneIn app – just click here.

PCL Scoreboard: Follow all Pacific Coast League games in real-time with links to Gameday screens right here.

Links:

The entire PCL was off on Wednesday, but we do have a few interesting stories:

Roster turmoil is a part of Triple-A baseball, and the Rainiers have been fortunate to avoid it until today. It will be interesting to see how the team responds on the field.


Baxter Sends Storm Chasers Indoors

May 17, 2016

The Rainiers had their first walk-off win of the season on Monday night, and it was about as dramatic as could be.

Trailing 5-4 with two on and two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, Mike Baxter launched a 2-2 pitch from Omaha reliever Malcom Culver over the wall in right-center for a 7-5 victory.

It was Baxter’s second home run of the game, and third of the season. Here’s the video of the walk-off – just click on it if it doesn’t come up automatically:

I laughed in the middle of the celebration because someone dumps the water cooler, and when the pile separates it’s a confused Dario Pizzano who is standing there covered with ice water.

The homer completed a pretty big comeback: Omaha scored five times in the top of the second inning against James Paxton, but did not score again the rest of the way.

Paxton averaged 96 miles per hour on his fastball and topped out at 98. Manager Pat Listach said it was the best stuff Paxton has had this season – but, in that second inning he got into some bad counts and left pitches in the middle of the plate where they could be hit hard.

Paxton, Justin DeFratus, Kraig Sitton, and Jonathan Aro combined to pitch seven straight shutout innings and enable the comeback.

RAINIERS ROUND-UP

Yesterday: Tacoma enjoyed its first walk-off win of the season, with Mike Baxter’s three-run homer ending it in a 7-5 win. The Rainiers will go for a series win today.

Today: Omaha (21-16) at Tacoma (22-16), 11:35.

Opponent Affiliation: Kansas City Royals.

Season Series: Tacoma leads, 2-1.

Starting Pitchers: RHP Luke Farrell (2-0, 3.73) at RHP Adrian Sampson (4-2, 3.05).

Hot Rainiers: Mike Baxter has eight hits and two walks in his last five games, with the two homers last night… Ed Lucas has hit safely in five straight games… Rob Brantly has gone 7-for-20 over a five-game hitting streak, with a pair of homers… Dario Pizzano has hit safely in nine straight games, going 12-for-30… Chris Taylor has reached base via hit or walk in 33 of the 36 games he has played in.

Look Out For: Brett Eibner homered three times on Thursday against Memphis, including two in the fifth inning alone. He became the 21st player in PCL history to homer twice in one inning… defending PCL batting champion Jose Martinez is 6-for-12 with a homer in this series… 2013 first round draft pick Hunter Dozier might be breaking out this season – he went 3-for-4 last night, and has hit safely in six straight games.

Local Guy: Mill Creek native Travis Snider is on Omaha, trying to play his way back to the big leagues. Jackson High School Class of 2006.

Broadcast: The pregame show starts at 11:20 on South Sound Sports 850 AM. The broadcast also streams online via the TuneIn app – just click here.

PCL Scoreboard: Follow all Pacific Coast League games in real-time with links to Gameday screens right here.

Links:

  • Mike Baxter wasn’t sure it was gone, we learn in the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune.
  • Matt Calkins has a column on the evolving pitching style of Felix Hernandez. I like Felix’s comments here.
  • The Mariners open a series in Baltimore tonight, and it’s a return home for catcher Steve Clevenger.

PCL Game Reports:

Early game today, and then an off-day on Wednesday. I’m taking the day off, too – our next blog post will appear Thursday early-afternoon, before Tacoma hosts Iowa.


Paxton To Pitch ‘Normal Game’

May 16, 2016

The first two games of this Rainiers-Omaha series have been good, clean, well-played baseball – fitting for two teams in first place in their divisions.

Tonight Tacoma sends James Paxton to the mound for his eighth start of the season, and unlike last time it will be a “normal outing” for him.

In his last start, Paxton was held to just 25 pitches. The Mariners made the call, limiting his work load on purpose. The combination of Paxton’s injury history and the Mariners likely future reliance on him caused them to make the decision.

It’s possible Paxton will be limited in occasional future starts for Tacoma, but not tonight. Expect to see him stay in there for 75-90 pitches tonight.

RAINIERS ROUND-UP

Yesterday: Omaha hit three solo home runs, and Tacoma managed just six hits in the Storm Chasers 4-2 win on Sunday afternoon. Brooks Pounders held Tacoma to three singles and one unearned run over the first six innings to earn the win.

Today: Omaha (21-15) at Tacoma (21-16), 6:05.

Opponent Affiliation: Kansas City Royals.

Season Series: Tied, 1-1.

Starting Pitchers: RHP Christian Binford (-) at LHP James Paxton (4-2, 2.81).

Binford is making his first Triple-A appearance of the season. He made six starts for Double-A Northwest Arkansas, going 3-2, 4.84.

Hot Rainiers: Rob Brantly has gone 7-for-20 over a five-game hitting streak, with a pair of homers… Dario Pizzano has hit safely in nine straight games, going 12-for-30… Chris Taylor has reached base via hit or walk in 32 of the 35 games he has played in.

Look Out For: Brett Eibner homered three times on Thursday against Memphis, including two in the fifth inning alone. He became the 21st player in PCL history to homer twice in one inning… Clint Barmes has a nine-game hitting streak… defending PCL batting champion Jose Martinez is 4-for-8 with a homer in this series.

Local Guy: Mill Creek native Travis Snider is on Omaha, trying to play his way back to the big leagues. Jackson High School Class of 2006.

Broadcast: The pregame show starts at 5:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM. The broadcast also streams online via the TuneIn app – just click here.

PCL Scoreboard: Follow all Pacific Coast League games in real-time with links to Gameday screens right here.

Links:

  • In the Rainiers game story, Scott Brosius recalls his time as a member of the Tacoma Tigers.
  • The Mariners got shut out by Hector Santiago and the Angels, ending a three-game sweep.
  • The Mariners Notebook looks at the promotion of Shawn O’Malley.
  • The season is full of ebbs and flows, John McGrath writes.
  • Everyone’s talking about baseball brawls, so ESPN ranked ’em.

PCL Game Reports:

  • Henderson Alvarez had a good rehab start and Nashville beat Fresno, 6-3. Fresno’s Tony Kemp returned home for two days, and today he was called up by Houston.
  • Reno bounced back from a 17-2 loss and beat up Iowa, 9-3. Archie Bradley pitched well for seven innings and Peter O’Brien hit his 12th home run.
  • Sacramento won in Memphis, 4-2. Tough series for links since neither city’s newspaper covers their own team.
  • Las Vegas had a big comeback and beat Oklahoma City, 9-7. Vegas starter Rafael Montero is the PCL Pitcher of the Week.
  • Albuquerque honored Round Rock manager Jason Wood, then walked off the Express on Ben Paulsen‘s game-winning RBI single. In the notes, we learn that Albuquerque released Cody Decker.
  • Colorado Springs won it’s fifth in a row, 5-4 over Salt Lake.
  • El Paso scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth and stunned New Orleans, 7-6. Ricardo Valenzuela had the game winning hit.

Tacoma Tigers Throwback Today

May 15, 2016

Great win for the Rainiers in the homestand opener last night: a clean 3-2 win in a tense game with some terrific pitching for the Rainiers. Nice to see the bullpen turn it around with three innings of perfect relief.

Today is Part II of Throwback Weekend, with the Tacoma Tigers being honored. Tigers was the name of the club from 1980-1994, with all but the first year as an affiliate of the Oakland A’s.

Bob Robertson joins me in the booth today and we’ll talk about the Tigers era during the broadcast, as he was the play-by-play announcer for many of those seasons.

RAINIERS ROUND-UP

Yesterday: Rob Brantly‘s go-ahead two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh inning proves to be the game winner, as Tacoma had terrific pitching in a 3-2 win over Omaha to start the homestand. Joe Wieland, Casey Coleman, and Blake Parker held the hot-hitting Storm Chasers in check.

Roster Moves: The Mariners have called up infielder/outfielder Shawn O’Malley, and optioned infielder Luis Sardinas to Tacoma. This is presumably so that the 22-year-old Sardinas can get some regular playing time – he hasn’t had much in Seattle. Also, today’s starting pitcher Brad Mills was activated from the disabled list, and Jordan Pries has been transferred to Double-A Jackson. My understanding is that Pries is going to move into the starting rotation and “stretch out” his pitch-counts.

Today: Omaha (20-15) at Tacoma (21-15), 1:35.

Opponent Affiliation: Kansas City Royals.

Season Series: Tacoma leads, 1-0.

Starting Pitchers: RHP Brooks Pounders (3-1, 3.41) at LHP Brad Mills (-).

The PCL veteran Mills is making his season debut, taking Cody Martin’s spot in the rotation. Mills was a minor league free agent signed during the winter, but he battled shoulder soreness during spring training and was held back until now. Martin will follow Mills from the bullpen today – most of Martin’s major league experience is as a reliever, so this a role he is familiar with.

Hot Rainiers: Rob Brantly has gone 6-for-16 over a four-game hitting streak, with homers in his last two… Dario Pizzano has hit safely in eight straight games, going 11-for-28… Chris Taylor has reached base via hit or walk in 31 of the 33 games he has played in.

Look Out For: Brett Eibner homered three times on Thursday against Memphis, including two in the fifth inning alone. He became the 21st player in PCL history to homer twice in one inning… Clint Barmes has an eight-game hitting streak… former first round pick Hunter Dozier homered eight times in 26 games for Double-A Northwest Arkansas before being promoted to Omaha on May 7.

Local Guy: Mill Creek native Travis Snider is on Omaha, trying to play his way back to the big leagues. Jackson High School Class of 2006.

Broadcast: The pregame show starts at 1:20 on South Sound Sports 850 AM. The broadcast also streams online via the TuneIn app – just click here.

PCL Scoreboard: Follow all Pacific Coast League games in real-time with links to Gameday screens right here.

Links:

Some truly amazing stuff happened last night in the PCL Game Reports:

  • El Paso took an 8-0 lead into the ninth inning against New Orleans, and blew it. But after the Zephyrs scored eight runs in the top of the ninth, El Paso won it in bottom of the 11th on a walk-off home run by Ryan Schimpf.
  • Colorado Springs topped Salt Lake, 2-1, in the longest game in Sky Sox franchise history. They played 18 innings – in the Springs, no less – before Salt Lake ran out of pitching and sent outfielder Quintin Berry to the mound. Numerous Sky Sox franchise records were set. All we have for now is a team report, because this game ended at nearly 1:00 AM local time. Andy Wilkins had the game-ended RBI single.
  • The Iowa Cubs – who will be here on Thursday – hung 17 runs on the scoreboard in Reno and lit up the Aces, 17-2.
  • Phenom Julio Urias pitched six more shutout innings and Oklahoma City topped Las Vegas, 1-0. That’s 21 straight shutout innings and a season ERA of 1.25 for the teenager.
  • Ryan Casteel hit a three-run homer to help Albuquerque down Round Rock, 8-4. The Express have lost five in a row.
  • Nashville trounced Fresno, 9-1, as Chris Smith pitched seven scoreless innings.
  • Matt Williams drove in five runs to help Memphis upend Sacramento, 10-3.

Break out your green – it’s Tacoma Tigers day at Cheney Stadium.


Rainiers Home To Face Omaha

May 14, 2016

The Rainiers dropped the final game of the road trip in ten innings on Friday night, 4-3, and return home today.

It’s the start of cross-conference play, with Omaha and Iowa making their first visits to Cheney Stadium since August of 2014.

Omaha is good, coming in to town with a 20-14 record having just won three-of-four against Memphis. They have some young, talented position players which seems to be a staple of recent Kansas City Royals affiliates.

RAINIERS ROUND-UP

Yesterday: Tacoma could not hold on to a 3-0 lead, failing to get a base runner after the sixth inning and eventually losing in ten innings at Fresno, 4-3. Tacoma maintains a 4.5-game lead in the Pacific-North division standings.

Today: Omaha (20-14) at Tacoma (20-15), 5:05.

Opponent Affiliation: Kansas City Royals.

Season Series: 0-0. They’ll play four games this season.

Starting Pitchers: LHP Jonathan Dziedzic (1-3, 4.45) at RHP Joe Wieland (2-3, 10.58).

Dziedzic is pronounced “jed-jick,” which is odd because Dziedzic doesn’t have any j’s in it.

Hot Rainiers: Daniel Robertson has homered three times in his last six games… Dario Pizzano has hit safely in seven straight games, going 10-for-25… Tyler Smith is 7-for-15 over his last four games…  Chris Taylor has reached base via hit or walk in 30 of the 33 games he has played in.

Look Out For: Brett Eibner homered three times on Thursday against Memphis, including two in the fifth inning alone. He became the 21st player in PCL history to homer twice in one inning… Jorge Bonifacio and Clint Barmes each have eight-game hitting streaks going into tonight’s game… former first round pick Hunter Dozier homered eight times in 26 games for Double-A Northwest Arkansas before being promoted to Omaha a week ago.

Local Guy: Mill Creek native Travis Snider is on Omaha, trying to play his way back to the big leagues.

Broadcast: The pregame show starts at 4:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM. The broadcast also streams online via the TuneIn app – just click here.

PCL Scoreboard: Follow all Pacific Coast League games in real-time with links to Gameday screens right here.

Links:

  • We start with the Rainiers game story from The News Tribune.
  • The Mariners took a tough loss on Friday, blowing a late lead and losing 7-6 to the injury-depleted Angels.
  • Bob Dutton’s Mariners Notebook looks at first baseman Adam Lind.
  • Jabari Blash, a Rule 5 pick, was designated for assignment by San Diego. If he clears waivers (any team can claim him if they keep him in the majors), the Padres have to offer him back to the Mariners who could then send him to the minors. Point being, we could potentially get Blash back in Tacoma.

PCL Game Reports:

Great to be home – see you at the park!


Sampson, Slam Power Rainiers

May 13, 2016

Adrian Sampson pitched a terrific game, and Daniel Robertson launched a game-breaking grand slam as Tacoma topped Fresno on Thursday night, 9-5.

The score was 4-2 going to the ninth, when Tacoma pushed a run across and loaded the bases for Robertson. Robertson pulled a deep drive down the left field line for his first grand slam since April 15, 2011 when he was in Double-A with the Padres.

Sampson allowed only two hits over eight innings, and two runs (one earned). He threw just 92 pitches and probably could have finished things off himself – a little later in the season, and they probably would have let him.

The Rainiers are 4-3 on this road trip, and have a chance to win the series against Fresno and post a winning record on this eight-game journey. One more tonight, and then the team comes home on Saturday.

RAINIERS ROUND-UP

Yesterday: Tacoma broke open a close game with five runs in the top of the ninth inning, taking a 9-2 lead before beating Fresno on Thursday night, 9-5. The Rainiers tallied 16 hits, with Mike Baxter going 4-for-5 while Chris Taylor and Mike Zunino each had three hits.

Today: Tacoma (20-14) at Fresno (14-19), 7:05.

Opponent Affiliation: Houston Astros.

Season Series: Tacoma leads, 2-1.

Starting Pitchers: RHP Donn Roach (2-2, 8.28) at RHP Joe Musgrove (-).

Musgrove is making his Triple-A debut after starting the season at Double-A Corpus Christi, where he went 2-1, 0.34. He allowed one earned run in 26.1 innings pitched.

Hot Rainiers: Daniel Robertson has homered in back-to-back games, he’s gone deep three times in his last five games, and he’s hitting .333 (14-for-42) over his last 11 games… Dario Pizzano has hit safely in six straight games, going 9-for-21… Tyler Smith is 7-for-15 over his last four games…  Chris Taylor has reached base via hit or walk in 29 of the 32 games he has played in.

Look Out For: 2015 PCL MVP Matt Duffy is warming up; he’s 8-for-19 over his last five games… third baseman Colin Moran – younger brother of former Rainiers pitcher Brian Moran – has a six-game hitting streak, and he hit a two-run homer last night.

Broadcast: The pregame show starts at 6:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM. The broadcast also streams online via the TuneIn app – just click here.

PCL Scoreboard: Follow all Pacific Coast League games in real-time with links to Gameday screens right here.

Links:

PCL Game Reports:

Hey, it’s Throwback Weekend at Cheney Stadium – check out the details!


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